Jacks eye Panthers for win

Brian Kimmes

Brian Kimmes

The Jackrabbits scored a touchdown on the first drive of the game against the University of Montana, accomplishing a feat they did not last year. After the first drive, the game played out much the same as last year’s, with the Jackrabbits getting shut out. The Jacks fell to the number 6 ranked Grizzlies, 36-7.

After failing to punch it in the end zone in the first game of the season, the Jacks wasted no time in crossing the goal line against Montana. However, the first score was all the Jacks could manage against a tough Grizzlies’ defense, which gave up only 226 total yards to the Jacks’ offense. Quarterback Andy Kardoes completed 10 of 30 passes and running back Cory Koenig was kept under 100 rushing yards.

The Jacks’ defense did not fair much better against the Grizzlies. Montana’s offense was able to dominate control of the ball. The Grizzlies ran 41 more plays and held the ball 18 more minutes than the Jacks, en route to racking up 535 yards on offense. In addition to offensive yards, the Grizzlies ran for 143 punt-return yards.

Head Coach John Stiegelmeier identified the inability to tackle the punt returner as one of two big things that hurt the Jacks.

“The punt team killed us,” said Stiegelmeier. He said it is difficult to win a game when giving up about 150 punt-return yards to one player.

The second thing that hurt the Jacks was “untimely penalties,” said Stiegelmeier. He did not think the team played recklessly or without discipline, but had two or three penalties that really hurt the team.

This is the second consecutive game penalties have hurt the Jackrabbits, but the team has struggled with more than penalties so far this season. The Jackrabbit offense has struggled, only scoring 10 points in the two games. Last year, the team averaged 33 points per game.

Stiegelmeier said there is no magic cure for the offense.

“We have no gimmicks in our program,” said Stiegelmeier. He said the offense starts with Kardoes, but that he depends on “the fat guys.” Stiegelmeier and the other coaches plan to work with the players and line them up to do their jobs.

The defense has not struggled as much as the offense this year. Stiegelmeier was “pleased with the La Crosse game.” He said the defense was on the field too long during the Montana game. The biggest thing on defense, he said, is to keep everybody healthy because not all positions are deep.

Looking ahead

The Jacks’ next game is against another ranked team, last year’s Division-IAA runner-up, the University of Northern Iowa Panthers. UNI is currently ranked number 12.

The Panthers are coming off a difficult loss to a Division-II team. Last week, the University of North Dakota traveled to Cedar Falls, Iowa, and defeated the Panthers in the UNI-Dome. Even though UND is a Division-II school, it has a very strong football program and announced this summer it will move to Division I.

Stiegelmeier said UND is a very good football team and can compete with any of the Division I-AA schools.

Losing to a lower-division school could provide extra incentive for the Panthers to play well this weekend.

“I think it (the UND loss) is in their favor, not ours,” said Stiegelmeier.

The Panthers may have extra motivation, but the Jacks are “excited to play,” he said. UNI is a close school with which SDSU is familiar and can relate. UNI used to be a part of the North Central Conference, SDSU’s old conference, before moving to Division I. Stiegelmeier said the game gives the Jacks a chance to compare where SDSU is to where UNI is now.

The Jackrabbits’ trip to Cedar Falls is a homecoming for Stiegelmeier. He started his coaching career at UNI. In 1981, he worked as a defensive graduate assistant coach for the Panthers.

Stiegelmeier said he is looking forward to returning.

“They treated me well,” he said. “It puts a personal twist on it.”